Side Dish Dilema

18 Apr

Red, yellow, and orange baby bell peppers

When preparing a meal, it is usually pretty easy to come up with a protein to serve.  Fish, steak, chicken, tofu.  All are great choices.  And coming up with a complimentary carbohydrate is usually easy as well, because as we all know, in this country we love our carbs!  Standing in the “side dish” aisle in the grocery offers many choices that are easy to prepare.  There are savory rice dishes, creamy pasta choices, and wonderful bakery breads to choose from.  But what about the “other” side dish?  Creating the vegetable side dish can be a little more challenging.

Sure opening a can of green beans or corn is super easy and quick.  I grew up in the midwest and in the winter that was all there was.  Oh, and peas every now again.  Baby green peas if you please.  That was about it!  Canned green beans do not exactly excite or inspire a meal.  But then again, back then the produce section of the local grocer did not look like it does now.  Nor were farmers markets as popular as they are now.  Thank goodness for that!  Inspiration here we come!

I love going to a local farmers market.   Try it.  Mosey on through.  Chat with the farmers.  Look at what others are selecting.  Ask for preparation ideas. In my part of the country, farmers markets are seasonal.  The rest of the year the produce section of the grocery store works just fine. In the grocery store, peek into other grocery carts.  Coming up with a wonderful fresh vegetable dish can be challenging, but inspiration for an exciting dinner choice abound if you just get a little nosey!  I have stopped people to ask what they are planning to do with a particular vegetable or ingredient.  Let me just say that his pays off!

I was in my local warehouse grocer and went into the “produce room”.  Its like a huge walk in fridge, so as much as I like to take my time looking at produce, I do not like being cold.  So I get in and outta there quickly.  I spotted a bag of mixed baby yellow, orange and red bell peppers.  They were pretty, so I grabbed a bag and ran.  When I was safely out of the refrigerated section, I noticed a teenaged girl and her mother had made the same choice with the peppers (I am nosey in all grocery stores!).  I asked them what they were planning on doing with the peppers.  The girl said that she was going to make a big beautiful salad and toss the peppers in it.  Yum!  The mom said that she liked to cut the baby bell peppers thin and layer them on sandwiches.  Double yum!  I was tucking that away in my brain to try sometime.  But I wanted to prepare them and serve them warm.  So I kept looking and being nosey.  Then inspiration hit!

I had gone from the produce section of the warehouse store to the freezer section.  I was looking at the bags of frozen vegetables, and noticed a bag of frozen roasted asparagus.  It hit me!  Roast the peppers!   I got excited thinking about it as I finished my shopping.  Being the dorky foodie that I am, I started planning and timing the meal out in my head.  Timing a meal to have everything done at the same time is challenging and takes planning.  But I was on it.

Dinner started with my washing and cutting the peppers up to roast.  I cut them into large pieces.  I put them in a roasting pan.  It was beautiful, those red, orange and yellow bell peppers in a white roasting dish.  The colors were pretty and very appetizing.  The oven was preheating at 400 degrees as I cut the peppers up.  After the peppers were cut, I drizzled them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Then I sprinkled them with salt and pepper.  Into the oven they went for 30 minutes.  Easy peasy!  While that was cooking I got the rest of meal ready.  I seared scollops and pulled out some pesto pasta that I had made earlier in the day.  Dinner is served!

It isn’t really any more difficult to make a lovely fresh vegetable side dish.  Vegetables can be easily roasted, and they are so sweet when prepared this way.  In the winter, I roast carrots, potatoes and onions.  In the summer it is  fresh peppers, squash, and  tomatoes.  They can go into the oven with various seasonings, but I like simplicity.  I usually just use olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  Sometimes I also sprinkle summer roasted vegetables with basil to add a twist, and fresh basil in the summer is amazing and versatile.  This is a jumping off point.  Start being nosey, spend more time in the produce section, and let the inspiration come!

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